Jan. 24, 2009
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by Sean Neugent
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The University of Iowa men’s basketball team worked with a 13-point lead with a few minutes remaining before it dwindled away to Penn State’s furious comeback, as the Nittany Lions went on to win 63-59 inside the Bryce Jordan Center on Saturday night.
After never trailing the entire game, the Hawkeyes watched their lead slip away with 2:14 remaining after a 22-5 Penn State run.
“Here we are, we just let one get away again, it’s tough,” UI head coach Todd Lickliter said. “I thought we made real strides and played with poise. But the game goes on a little bit longer than that and down at the end we made plays the other night [in the overtime victory over Wisconsin], tonight we couldn’t make plays. They made plays, [Jamelle] Cornley makes a three, we are up six and he shoots a three and that is kind of what you want to happen but he shoots it in.”
“We had them, we were up double-digits, but down the stretch they made key plays,” Fuller said. “We had them but we just couldn’t make the plays down the stretch.”
The Hawkeyes (12-8 overall, 2-5 Big Ten Conference) shot 20 of 44 (46 percent) from the field, 4 of 17 (24 percent) from behind the arc and 15 of 16 (94 percent) from the charity stripe. Penn State (16-5, 5-3) shot 21 of 47 (45 percent), 8 of 25 (32 percent) from deep and 13 of 20 (65 percent) from the free throw line.
Sophomore Jake Kelly led the Hawkeyes and tied his career-high with 19 points on 7 of 10 from the field and 1 of 3 from three-point land. Fuller had a career-high 16 points on 6 of 11 shooting and 2 of 5 from deep. Junior David Palmer added eight rebounds. Penn State’s Cornley scorched the Hawkeyes with 24 points and six rebounds while Talor Battle added 20 points, six rebounds and six assists. Battle had 11 points during their late run and Cornley had 10.
“Penn State’s a great team and we had them,” Fuller said. “We kind of proved that we can play on the road, but we just have to close out and finish. You have to play the whole 40 minutes not 39…you have to play the whole 40 minutes.”
Both teams struggled to get on the board early before Gatens hit an open-look trifecta with 17:05 remaining in the first half. Gatens awoke the Hawkeyes who went on a 7-2 run after scoring on their next two possessions.
“Here we are, we just let one get away again, it’s tough. I thought we made real strides and played with poise. But the game goes on a little bit longer than that and down at the end we made plays the other night [in the overtime victory over Wisconsin], tonight we couldn’t make plays. They made plays, [Jamelle] Cornly makes a three, we are up six and he shoots a three and that is kind of what you want to happen but he shoots it in.”
UI head coach
Iowa’s defense stymied the Nittany Lions while strong ball work offensively helped the Hawkeyes quiet the Penn State crowd early. Penn State charged back after sophomore Jarryd Cole fouled Cornley, who hit the jumper. Cornley missed the free throw but the rebound bounced off of Kelly’s fingers and went out of bounds. Penn State was awarded the ball back and Cornley nailed another jumper to push the Nittany Lions within one point. Sophomore Jeff Peterson came back and hit a jumper of his own before Palmer made a layup.
The Hawkeyes continued to apply pressure to Penn State’s defense which allowed them to go on an11-0 run to make it 20-8 with 7:35 remaining in the half. The Nittany Lions came back and made a 12-3 run. Iowa was held in check for almost five minutes without a basket to let Penn State back in the door before Kelly hit a jumper to make it 25-20 with 1:11 remaining. Kelly hit a long jumper just inside the three-point line as time expired to carry momentum and a 29-22 lead into the locker room.
The ball remained in Kelly and Fuller’s hands as they continued to pour it on when the second half began after each hit both a jumper and a layup. The Hawkeyes pushed it to a ten point lead at 39-29 after Peterson hit a pair of free throws.
Gatens quickly pushed it to a 12-point advantage after he had back-to-back steals. He turned them into four points after he was fouled on a fast-break layup and made the two free throws then hit the layup on the next fast-break steal.
Penn State pulled within nine after forcing a few Iowa turnovers and took some momentum back. The momentum would be short lived after Cornley received a technical foul. Cornley received the technical after talking to the referee coming off a play where he tried to get a rebound from Gatens and knocked him to the ground. Just like a technical from the Wisconsin bench on Wednesday night, it swung the momentum in Iowa’s favor. Gatens and Kelly each made two free throws. Penn State’s Battle drilled a trey before Iowa countered right back after Kelly hit the open look three-pointer to make it 54-41.
Penn State applied a full-court press but to no advantage and the Hawkeyes began to milk the clock. A few Hawkeyes misfires and Penn State jumped right back into it. Battle hit a triple before Cornley was fouled by Palmer after he made a jumper and made a free throw to give the Hawkeyes only a 54-50 lead.
Fuller hit a layup before Cornley again came up big and hit a three-pointer to make it a one possession game. Cornley continued to be unstoppable and hit the next two shots and were within two points, 59-57.
“He [Cornley] was a handful,” Fuller said. “He was really strong, really aggressive, getting in on every board. He took advantage of his strength. He is a great player and made some great plays down the stretch.”
“We might have gotten tired, we played a lot of minutes but we have to,” Lickliter said. “I don’t think there is any excuse at this level not being strong. We’re just not strong enough. Now I don’t know if you will get Cornley’s strength, he benches 370 but at Butler every four-man that we had benched three and a quarter. We don’t have that. We have to get to the point where we can match the physicality of this league, we have pretty good skill but we have to get stronger.”
Battle nailed a trifecta and gave Penn State their first lead of the game with 2:14 remaining. The Hawkeyes were able to beat the full-court press before the Nittany Lions stripped Kelly and Gatens fouled Battle who made both from the charity stripe. Penn State blocked a Peterson three-point attempt and another free throw ended any comeback the Hawkeyes had in them.
“They got two or three three’s in a row which cut it down to single-digits,” Fuller said. “They were really crashing the boards hard and we just couldn’t make those big plays down the stretch.”
“We could’ve won a couple games [this year], but this is one we should’ve won,” Lickliter said. “We controlled it too long to let it get away.”
The Hawkeyes will come back home to face Michigan State on Thursday, Jan. 29, with a 6:05 p.m. tipoff.
“We’re not going to get any stronger tomorrow, we have to get tougher,” Lickliter said. “It doesn’t get any easier in this league.”